Tunnel Beach - A Quiet and Familiar Place


The rock scramble.

Dunedin is a strange wee town. The urban centre itself has an other-worldy feel to it. You may have come from the Southern alps and then wandered into Dunedin to find yourself questioning if you have actually skipped through a portal to a town in the Northern UK or the West of Ireland. There is a depth of culture here not felt in all NZ towns. It might be the vibrant student presence or the historic significance of the place but whatever it is, it has a mystery to it.


One of the scenic locations not too far from the Dunedin town is certainly full of mystery. Tunnel Beach, a well known spot and a great location to bring the camera. I hadn't originally intended on taking photos when I went there as I was there for a work trip. But, luckily I brought along the Sony a6500 and a 24mm lens and was able to capture some snapshots in order to convey what it is like to stroll around, in this strange and beautiful location.


The Cliff top before the descent.

On arrival to the carpark for Tunnel Beach we chatted about the history of this place. Originally it was an isolated patch of white sand surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs but a local landowner felt that if access could be gained, it would be the perfect bathing spot for his daughters. So, in the 1870s John Cargill had the tunnel built and his daughters had their secluded piece of paradise in which to bathe in private. So now, it is an accessible patch of white sand surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs. The cove itself is quite dramatic though, mainly due to several gigantic boulders happily perched on the pure sand. Certainly some impressive geological forces at play here.

Strolling around the beach itself, clambering over the boulders one can't help but marvel at the towering walls around you. It really is a secret little spot. We were there just before sunset and right on que, a couple of rainbows appeared.


I yearned for another hour, my tripod and complete isolation, but watching the light bounce off those sandstone cliffs, I felt assured that this is one location worth a return visit.


We ascended up the tunnel steps again and started to wander up the hill just as the sun dipped below the headland. A light rain began to fall and the whole place shone in gold.












On the walk up the hill toward the carpark I could help but be reminded of Ireland. There was something so familiar here. The brown and gold of the long grass and coastal hills sent flashes of Connemara through my mind. I suddenly realised what it was about this place, and Dunedin in general that I found so appealing; the light! Perhaps it is the latitude or the climate but the quality of light bathing this coastal gem, is just like the soft light of an Irish Summer. I felt at home here.